Thursday 29 July 2010

Salthouse Horse

A horse goes to water - Salthouse, Norfolk, UK

After a deluge of iPhone images on the blog these last few weeks, I've decided to add a few black and white film images to balance things up. I've already started to think about what i'd like to do next year during the Norfolk shoot. It looks likely that I'll be shooting large 6x6 colour film images alongside the usual b&w. A new angle for the project to work alongside the tried and tested.

I have so much to do next year including starting the hunt for a new DSLR. A few tough decisions may have to be made that even include postponing any potential purchase until 2012. I'm seriously thinking about a Nikon D4 which will be, when Nikon eventually release it, stupid money. I am keeping an open mind about things, but the constant upgrading of digital camera gear and the hype around it really bugs me.

Maybe that's why i love film cameras (oh heck i love digital too, just certain elements really annoy me) so much - no upgrading required.... well not much.

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Numbers Game

Vacant beach hut space number 40 - Sheringham, Norfolk, UK

A few little ideas have started to become a bit more labour intensive than i first anticipated. The first is an official 'Norfolk Light' calendar that will be launched next month, and the other is an actual photo book release. I'll talk about the projects in more detail on my podcast which is due to be recorded in the next couple of days. 

Talking of photography books, I've been looking at David Bailey's ' Black and white Memories', a book published in 1983 that i managed to pick up recently (yep a secondhand book store ) which looks at Bailey's groundbreaking sixties work. The photography is, of course, superb and it's a diverse mix of styles. Photographers can sometimes become typecast as just fashion or editorial specialists, especially if they become famous, when in fact they do a wide variety of work.

I especially loved Bailey's early documentary work taken in the East end of London around 1962. Most of the photographs are of empty street, more than likely taken early on a Sunday morning. The old shops look almost Victorian , emphasised maybe by the worn old fashioned look decorating many of the shop fronts. The photograph captures a world long gone where high streets had diversity and character.

Bailey says he would like to be called a photographer, rather than labelled as just a fashion photographer. I think a lot of photographers think along the same lines. We just photograph what's around us and what interests us... just like David Bailey did in the East end of London in 1962.

Friday 23 July 2010

Booked Up

Looking through my collection of photography books, i realise that I've acquired quite a few pounds worth of books in nearly twenty years of collecting. The first true photography book that i bought was John Tordai's 'Into the promised land', a gritty and stylish book featuring black and white photography documenting the Palestinian intifada of the late 1980's. I bought it at the Bradford TV, film and photography museum (now called the media museum) shop for the very reasonable price of just £9.99.

OK, i admit that some time before that i had purchased the Don McCullin autobiography 'Unreasonable Behaviour', but i categorize that as a biography and not a true photo book. Like many photography students, i started to collect books featuring work by my favourite photographers as part of the learning process, to see how Salgado would frame a portrait, or how Capa would shoot a scene. I realise though that there is another more subtle aspect to my book collecting. Memories.

I can distinctly remember where I've purchased virtually every photo book I've ever bought, however, the secondhand ones seem to have especially burned their way into my memory. These books have replaced how i used to feel about buying music on vinyl. Remember the great old record shops? The good old fashioned album has far more sentiment attached to it than a emotionally cold CD or MP3 file. I'd get rid of all of my CDs tomorrow rather than sell my record collection, such is the strength of  the emotional ties and memories associated with much of my vinyl.

Books have that same emotional hold especially if you buy them from a great old eccentric secondhand bookshop. Amazon website doesn't quite offer the same sort of atmosphere as a old, cramped bookshop packed full of books. The best book experience? So many to choose from, however, finding a 1940 copy of the classic lighting book ' Lighting for photography' by Walter Nurnberg certainly rates high... literally! I had to climb right up a very rickety step ladder in a book shop/antique shop in Wooler, Northumberland to get that. Absolute bliss.

Monday 19 July 2010

Recent Developments

A number of improvements have been made to the portfolio area of my website. I'm still, however, a long way from being satisfied with the page as a whole.

My online portfolio needs a lot of work to become the broadly representative online gallery of my photography that i crave - something that i am to focus on developing during the latter part of this year. New slide show software will be used to improve the viewing experience of galleries and to also help me with the multimedia work i aim to develop next year.

Some of you may have notice a few subtle changes to the top menu on my website. This is, again, a work in progress attempt to add a few features to the website. In the multimedia section you will find a listing called video pods. These are short video podcasts i occasionally do from my iPhone. It is still experimental but it has potential to be developed further.

Over the coming months i want to do some more short edited videos, so as you will have read, the main website continues to develop.... slowly.

Sunday 18 July 2010

C'est la vie

A portrait of the film character Christian played by actor Carl Isherwood

It has been a tough week, not made an easier by the fact that i had to make a really tough decision this weekend about my involvement in a film. In the end, i made my decision and decided to quit as the Director of Photography on the vampire film 'Christian'. The reason is a simple one. The job was non-existent.

The Director of Photography's job on a movie is a pretty straightforward one. You help the director create the film's visual style using lighting and via the use of camera angles, framing of scenes, colour palettes etc. I've been increasingly consulted less and less about those issues, and after a number of weeks of deliberation... i reluctantly and sadly decided to go.

C'est la vie as the French would say. I may return to set as a stills photographer for this last week of filming in Whitby.

Monday 12 July 2010

Profile: Margaret Bourke-White

Diversion Tunnels, Fort Peck Dam 1936 - Image by Margaret Bourke-White

Margaret Bourke-White's story reads like something out of Hermann Wouk's The Winds of War novel. As a documentary photographer, she travelled extensively during World war II, met many of the leading figures of the era and was the only western photographer to work (briefly) in the Soviet Union during the start of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. She was a household name and regarded as one of the best photographers of her generation.

Margaret Bourke-White was born as Margaret White in 1904 in the Bronx, New York. Her father was a printer and inventor who had a love of machinery and from whom she claimed to learned perfectionism from. Her mother was a homemaker whose resourcefulness gave Margaret White a desire to constantly improve as well as the additional Bourke name. Margaret Bourke-White's brother describes their parents as 'free thinkers who were intensely interested in advancing themselves and humanity through personal achievement'.  Looking back at Bourke-White's life it seems obvious that she inherited much of  her parents hard working ethos. Unlike many photographers of her generation, Bourke-White had a university background (pursuing a degree in Herpetology - the study of reptiles) finally graduating from Cornell University NY with her B.A. in 1927. During this period, Margaret Bourke-White was taking photographs as a hobby, but her passion for photography eventually led to her going professional. She began working as a commercial, architectural and industrial photographer in Cleveland, Ohio.

In the late 1920's she undertook a commissioned to photograph the Otis Steel Company. The assignment had its problems with access and attitudes towards women photographers just being two of them to deal with. After some initial technical difficulties due to the films colour sensitivity and lighting within the steel plant, Margaret Bourke-White managed to produce some of best steel factory pictures of that era by using magnesium flares as a light source. Her ability to work of with people (her second husband, Erskine Caldwell, described her as "very adept at being able to direct people. She was almost like a motion picture director. Very astute in that respect") and a great technical know how paid off and gained her national attention. Much of her technical expertise was gained from her father's interest in cameras and the technical side of photography. This knowledge would later become incredibly useful for Margaret Bourke-White as she worked in some of the most adverse conditions imaginable. One impressive photograph has her using her camera atop of the Chrysler building in New York.

In 1929, Margaret Bourke-White made the move from industrial to documentary photographer when she was recruited by Editor and Publisher Henry Luce as a staff photographer for Fortune Magazine which chronicled the world of U.S. business and economy. The keen editor and publisher had seen the photographer's work and realised that Fortune magazine needed those types of quality images. The following year, Margaret Bourke-White became the first western photographer to be allowed into the Soviet Union to photograph Soviet industry. When Henry Luce started LIFE magazine in late 1936, the first front cover featured a photograph by Margaret Bourke-White. The photographer's fame had been building before LIFE, but the new magazine added further to her appeal. She even appeared in photo stories in the magazine itself documenting how she took the photographs for a magazine story. Before long Margaret Bourke-White was a household name that endorsed products as diverse as coffee, phonograph records and wine. 

It is as a LIFE photographer that the photographer is best remembered, but Margaret Bourke-White only served as a LIFE staff photographer until 1940 when see left to become chief photographer for another magazine. During the war years, however, she would return to LIFE magazine, now and again, until a permanent return occurred in 1945. From that point on until her semi retirement in 1957, LIFE magazine would be her work and her family. In the late 1940's Margaret Bourke-White became a target for Joseph McCarthy and the House of Un-American Activities Committee. The FBI had been making a file on the photographer since the mid 1930's due to her 'political activities' (Bourke-White had an interest in documenting racial inequality). She only managed to avoid a cross examination by the House of Un-American Activities committee by writing a statement confirming her believe in democracy.

In 1953, Margaret Bourke-White developed the first symptoms of Parkinson's disease which eventually stopped her from working as a photographer. In semi retirement, she decided to write an autobiography of her adventures called 'Portrait of Myself'  which took eight years to complete and was finally published in 1963. After a number of operations and procedures to halt the progress of the disease, this remarkable photographer, who had travelled the world, photographed Stalin smiling and taken one last image of Gandhi shortly before he was assassinated, died at the age of 67 on August 27, 1971. Sixteen months later, on the 29th December 1972, LIFE magazine was published for the final time. It marked the end of a remarkable era for photojournalism.

All Images by Margaret Bourke-White

Top Left: Margaret Bourke-White
Top Right: Margaret Bourke-White on the Chrysler Building, New York 1934 - photo by Oscar Graubner
Middle Left: Bread Line during the Louisville flood, Kentucky 1937
Middle Right: Prisoners at Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1945
Bottom Left: Nuremberg 1945


Margaret Bourke-White at Masters of Photography
Margaret Bourke-White/ LIFE image archive


Margaret Bourke-White: Her Pictures Were Her Life

Margaret Bourke-White: The Early Work, 1922-1930 (Pocket Paragon Series)

Purple Heart Valley: A Combat Chronicle of the War in Italy

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Book End

Apologies. It's been a bit quiet on the blog this last month or so. I've been a very busy bee. A number of blog posts are on their way including one that has been delayed far too long due to work. Everything seems to come at once and time just vanishes. One of the more urgent projects that needed completing quick was the Solo Photo Book Month book.

Well good news! It's finished. I managed to get everything in place today, so i uploaded the completed book a clear 24 hours before the finish deadline. The photographs and book look great, so much so that an 'extended' version of the book will be coming out soon featuring even more photographs.

My Solo Photo Book Month 2010 book (9.5Mb) can be downloaded at:-